It is clear to even the casual reader that the books of 1 and 2 Kings share a great deal of similarities with the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. So much so, in fact, that some wonder why it is that we have both of these accounts of Israel’s history in our Bibles.
At first glance it can seem as though the same information is being repeated but from a slightly different angle. And this is, to some extent, true. Roughly 50% of the material in Chronicles is covered elsewhere in the Old Testament.
So why do we have both Kings and Chronicles in our Bibles? The answer lies in understanding the differences between these two histories of Israel.
In order to account for these differences, we must first understand the date and setting of each of these books.
Together with the books of Samuel, Kings was written around 550-560 BC during the Babylonian exile, while Chronicles was written after the exile was over, around 450-440 BC. Whereas Samuel/Kings addressed the hardhearted Jews experiencing exile and captivity, Chronicles seeks to inspire hope and faith in God among those who are hurting after this spiritually devastating ordeal.
The fact that these two accounts of Israel’s history are given to different audiences accounts for the contrasts between the two. While Samuel/Kings needed to show the people that the nation’s troubles were the result of their sinful disobedience rather than God’s abandonment of His people, Chronicles wanted to encourage the Israelites and help them turn back to worshiping Yahweh as the one true God.
Three distinctives in Chronicles help show how it is different than Samuel/Kings.
A Focus on David and Solomon
The Chronicler focuses heavily on David and Solomon, to the tune of 29 chapters. When discussing these rulers, the spotlight is on their triumphs rather than their respective failures of adultery and idolatry.
Though Chronicles does not whitewash history, it does deal more favorably with many of the kings of Israel. For instance, the wicked King Manasseh is described as an evil king in both 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33, but only Chronicles mentions his repentance and return to God.
A Focus on Judah
A second distinctive is that the Chronicler focuses primarily on the kings of Judah, the house of David, rather than the kings of Israel (remember, the kingdoms were divided after the death of Solomon). When the kings of Israel (the northern kingdom) are mentioned, it is because it has a direct connection to the narrative related to the exploits of Judah in the south.
While it does not ignore the northern kingdom and the complex issues associated with it, the book of Chronicles sees Judah as the center of God’s work among His people.
A Focus on Restoration
Lastly, whereas Samuel/Kings acknowledges that God dealt with the wickedness of Israel’s kings by punishing even their descendents, Chronicles focuses on God’s dealing with obedient and disobedient kings within their own lifetime.
The overall purpose of Chronicles was not to browbeat an already dejected Israel, but to lift them up and point them back to God. This is why it is fitting that the book of Chronicles is the final book in the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh). By demonstrating for them how God is in control, the author of Chronicles seeks to inspire a return to proper worship and reverence for Yahweh, the God of Israel.
While there is more that can be said about the difference between the books of Kings and Chronicles, the above distinctives reveal that the latter book is not redundant. When we read Scripture – particularly the Old Testament – we must remember that while these books were written for us they were not originally written to us.
The original readers of these books would have been much better attuned to the differences in their content and in their purpose. As we read through the Bible we will always benefit by trying to first understand what the text meant to the original audience before we try to understand how it applies to us today.
This upper-level introduction to the Old Testament offers students a solid understanding of three key issues for each book: historical background, literary analysis, and theological message.